How to watch your back on long road trips

You don’t need to be a chiropractor to know that sitting for long periods of time can lead to back stiffness. So, if you’re planning a long road trip to bring the kids back to school or sneak in one last summer getaway, you should take some precautions for your back prior to hitting the road.

For people with back conditions, there’s a genuine fear that a long road trip could first ruin the trip and then have them in agony on the way back. With stretching and a decent amount of rest stops—one every hour or so--you can usually minimize the impact of being seated for a long drive.”

The first and most obvious element to the comfortable long drive is the car seat. If you’re not currently driving a vehicle with a good seat and proper lumbar support, you may want to look into a rental that has a comfortable seat or buying a lumbar pillow as a less expensive alternative.

It’s also imperative to have the seat at the right settings for your height and body type. Many times, the seat settings can be a large part of the problem. If you’re currently under a chiropractor’s care, do not be afraid to ask them to take a look at your car seat.

Of course, stretching before you get into the automobile and as you get out is key. Stretches can be as simple as, from a standing position, reaching your arms above your head toward the sky without lifting your heels and holding for 20 seconds before releasing (repeating as necessary).

To stretch your neck, gently bend your head backward so that your eyes are looking upward. Stop when you feel the stretch and hold for 20 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat five times. Repeat as necessary.

For your shoulders, clasp your hands behind your lower back, keeping an upright posture. Lift your clasped hands out and away from the body and stop when you start to feel a little discomfort. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds and then release.

There are also some preventative things you can do while driving to ease tension. For example, you should alter your hand position on the wheel rather than staying in a fixed position (this can ease pressure and tension on the shoulders).

There are many other things that make it possible for you to have a more comfortable ride, like getting a good night’s sleep the night before and keeping yourself hydrated. Even your music selection is important. Playing soothing music can help minimize tension, particularly during stressful traffic situations. Plus, if this is an overnight trip, make sure you have a comfortable bed waiting for you at the end of your destination.

If a few days after your trip you are still sore or stiff—even after stretching—it may be time to consider chiropractic care. To find a chiropractor in Rhode Island, contact the Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island at 401-207-0700 or visit

Dr. Thomas Morison is a member of The Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island (CSRI) and practitioner at Northeast Chiropractic in Providence, RI. CSRI, founded in 1918, is one of the oldest chiropractic associations in the country and represents more than 60 of the practicing chiropractic physicians in the state of RI. For more information, call (401) 207-0700 or visit

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